Culture Abuse at the Camden Boot Room-30/02/2019.

Got a free entry to see Culture Abuse at the Camden Boot room in Camden stables. I like “Culture Abuse” having seen them a couple of times before but they were being billed as singing a few “Sex Pistols” covers. This in the end did not happen but we certainly got a high energy 40 minute set with people bouncing off the low ceiling and lights whilst others tried to swing from the stage lighting gantry. So pretty full on for those young enough to sneer at serious injury.

The venue only takes about 60 people so when confronted by a queue of about 300 outside I thought my chances of entry were slim. But after having a word with the custodian of the list of people who had registered I miraculously got in. So it was a free concert and to top it off free drinks, either Brew dog or Jack Daniels (assuming it was due to licencing).

“Culture Abuse” certainly bring the energy to a venue like this and as mentioned earlier they rattled through many of the highlights of their two albums. Songs such as “Chinatown” and” Bee Kind to the Bugs” actually sound better live, as the production on some tracks off their albums does blunt the raw edges.

They do have a style of their own tinged with a clear love of 70’s punk and reggae. They play heartfelt songs with danceable beats such as “Calm E”, “Dream On” as well as sing along choruses such as “Turn it Off”. Despite requests there were no cover versions offered (ha, ha!).

On the evening they had support from a band I’ve not come across so far called “High-Vis”.  Just serendipity but I  met two band members outside while I was moaning about the queue. We got chatting and they said although they didn’t like the idea of pigeonholing their music they sounded a bit like “New Order” meets punk. I think at times that was quite accurate, although I did hear a bit of the “Motors “in there somewhere. They clearly had some fans in tow as they got only a slightly less rapturous welcome than the headliners. Played a solid 30 minute set with rock solid musicianship. Songs of modern life and struggle seemed to be the order of the day. Nothing wrong with that I would say.

I had said to the two guys outside that I would check them out if didn’t get in. I’ve seen they are playing support at the Victoria in Dalston so might make a detour for that to hear them again. Great evening in a small evening with added anxiety that might not get in. Makes you feel alive.

Toy at Village Underground-20/02/2019

Took a visit to the Village Underground near Liverpool st station to see “Toy” as they have just launched what is there fourth album. The audience was suitably shoe gazey and “Toy” are one of those bands that I expected great things from a few years ago when I first saw them. I really liked there first two albums and used to play them in the car repeatedly.

They opened there set with a few new songs as far as I could tell form my strategic position near the sound desk (assumed this might be the best sound). In the live setting when they rock out and let’s be honest this band are very much in the tradition of the prog rock bands of the early 70’s they sound a little like Status Quo. Depending on your persuasion that’s obviously good or bad. I just found that on the night they didn’t really elevate their music to any new height that really thrilled me.

I had arrived early as per usual to check out the support. First band called “The Shadracks” consisted of female bassist and drummer and male vocalist/guitarist. I mention this because it’s a bit of a trend it seems. Does it add a different dynamic I don’t know? But on reflection a few of my favourite bassists in current bands do seem to be women. Thinking of “Future of the Left” or “Savages” for example.

Anyway they played multiple short songs in the 2 minute to 2.30 range. Some worked, some needed more work and they genuinely seemed to be trying stuff out. The singer both visually and delivery wise reminded me of Bowie back in his early London Boys days, a bit of a cheeky ,cockney chappie vibe. This comparison might clearly be a bit over the top but interesting all the same. Referring to their Facebook page it looks like their mission is to turn the clock back 40 years. I think they were close to accomplishing that.

The most notable aspect of their set was a cover of “Alternative TV’s” song “Splitting in Two”. It was there last and best song but I am intrigued at the choice. Clearly not random and it prompted me to go back and listen to the original album, which was a pretty random collection of songs 40 years ago.

It has left me wanting to know a bit more so probably did its job.

Second support was “Adrena, Adrena” which is a collaboration of visual artist Daisy Dickinson and drummer E-Da Kazuhisa. I was happy to indulge their musings for 30 minutes and it consisted of some synth rhythms, what has to be regarded as rock solid drumming (without being over indulgent) and someone manipulating images on an 8ft diameter circular orb from their laptop.

It was hypnotic and engaging and kind of therapeutic as it washed over you. It was worth seeing/hearing but not something I would enthusiastically seek out.

The evening was therefore quite an eclectic mix and it wasn’t clear if this was a curated effort or just a random coming together of various talents.

An aspect that I really enjoyed on the evening was the DJ, Rhys Webb, who provided the music between the acts. He played a vast array of DUB music, which I haven’t heard for probably 40 years in any quantity. Sounded great on the PA in the venue and really took me back in time. It also provided a real laid back feel to the whole evening. Really enjoyable.

Overall an eclectic mix of artists and a nice feel to the whole evening. Drinking at the Village Underground is not hugely recommended as its limited to a few brands in 330ml cans at £4.80 a pop. My recommendation is therefore to embrace the atmosphere but do your drinking elsewhere if you really need to.

Meatraffle and Sleaze- Windmill,Brixton-13/02/2019

Meatrafle 3

 

I have not been to the Windmill for a while but it’s always a great, small, intimate venue. It’s still a magnet for the cool muso’s of South London and the audience was made up of the weird and the wonderful and a fair smattering of Fat white old blokes as usual.

Being a school night I didn’t stay for the headliners and left with the place literally heaving with bodies.

First band on stage were “Sleaze”, whose lead singer is from Camberwell and they are certainly clearly part of the current South London Scene. I have not seen them before. The front man has the necessary charisma to give them a strong visual focus, with a resemblance to Eugene from “Gogol Bordello”. The band look suitably non-fashion types giving them the necessary kudos to be viewed as serious musicians.

From my research this might be about the fifth or sixth incarnation of the band due to line up changes and some of the songs have been a few years in the making. I made out a couple of songs that are also on YouTube such as “Rapunzel” and “Push Tuck” and another song which was about not being a monster which I hope was ironic.

In the live setting they have elements of “Phobophobes “about them, probably due to the synth meanderings and a slight nod to psychedelia in a “Doors” stylie. They have also been mentioned in the same sentence with “Talking Heads” but not sure I get that. They were competent and confident and as is the way at the Windmill they tend to be quite democratic by rotating billing so my understanding is that “Sleaze” are a recurrent feature of the “Windmill” line up.

From my perspective I would certainly 100% seek them out again.

Next on stage were “Meatraffle” a perennial favourite. I was close to the front and had a good viewing spot. They played a few new songs, mixed in with some old favourites. ‘The Horseshoe” always get a strong reaction and there was also “I am not a bird” (sung by Zsa Zsa Sapien) and “Love Hz”. A number of tracks are punctuated by the  horn section, which is rare in a band of this type .Their sound is moving in a more melodic direction I would say in the live setting. The first album is very eclectic and could be considered by some as a difficult listen. But having said that they have stuck to their musical principles which is great for us music snobs, who need our guilty pleasures and don’t want our favourites to enter the alternative mainstream.

One of the good things about the “Windmill” is it seems to me to be very safe space. When there by myself I invariably getting chatting and people are generally friendly. If someone bumps you by mistake they are usually extremely apologetic. It contrasts strongly with larger venues where there is often an increasingly drunk and loutish element in attendance. Perhaps that’s my age talking but no one really wants to be bothered by aggressive drunks.

Long live the Windmill!

Future of the left- Lexington 10th Anniversary -8/2/2019.

Note: Couldn’t find the banner for 8th 🙂

I first saw “ Future of the Left “ at the closing event for the Coronet Theatre  in Elephant and Castle in December 2017 and was duly impressed with the energy and musicianship ,especially the driving bass lines. In the live setting there duelling guitars and bass lines draw comparisons with “Gang of Four” or “Rage Against the Machine”. Not a bad thing I would say. Lyrically they have something to say as you would imagine but there is very often  underlying humour which I would say actually gives the songs greater longevity as opposed to being a pure dialectic rant, which could get old far more quickly and dated.

This was there second night at the Lexington in celebration of the Venues 10th Anniversary. Have to say I thought it had been a music venue forever. An intimate venue I was intrigued at how they would sound. The bass wasn’t quite as powerful as my last listening but they entertained an enthusiastic audience with 19 songs, drawn from numerous albums with a couple from upcoming new album “Christian Fitness”.

They played for approximately 80 minutes. Despite being around since 2006 they sound pretty fresh to my ears and attacked all songs with 100% enthusiasm. Despite maintaining a level of rawness in the live performance, having read a little about the band, they definitely have a level of perfectionism bubbling below the surface that belies this and is attributed to the vison of vocalist Andy Falkous.

In the current political landscape it’s interesting to consider their appeal based on the fact that they are clearly not apolitical. The crowd was pretty mixed from student types through to the smattering of fat white old blokes but perhaps the left leaning nature of the band will assist rather than hinder in the UK’s brave new political world.

Support was provided by “Right Hand, Left Hand” also from Wales who are clearly very competent multi-instrumentalists. But you can probably sense a” but” here in my tone as I am slightly giving faint praise.

I was talking to a marketing specialist this week who said to me that “you need to decide what market you’re going for and then what benefits and individual differentiation you bring to that market”. Unfortunately the same rules really apply in music and other than enjoying themselves (which I think is a justifiable end game and shouldn’t be underestimated) it wasn’t clear what they wanted to say. That was partly because their set was very instrumental biased with limited vocals.

This is my opinion and accept that to others ears this may have absolutely hit the spot and been the modern version of the old Punk D.I.Y ethic. But just a bit too much technology for me.

Overall a great venue, good entertainment and a headliner that left the audience wanting more. “Future of the Left “are an underrated and underappreciated band, they still have plenty of fire and play a high energy set. Look forward to the next time.

Set List (courtesy of Set list .com)

The Lord Hates a Coward

My Gymnastic Past

Miner’s Gruel

Arming Eritrea

The Limits of Battleships

Failed Olympic Bid

Manchasm

Eating for None

You Should Be Ashamed, Seamus

(mclusky cover)

Stand By Your Manatee

Gareth Brown Says

(mclusky cover)

How to Spot a Record Company

French Lessons / Singing of the Bonesaws / Lapsed Catholics / Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues

 

Three additional songs were unknown from the new album.

 

Architects at SSE Wembley-19/01/2019

Firstly a few words about the venue. I would not have chosen SSE Wembley as a great music venue. It’s vast and hanger like with insufficient toilets for the number of people and the bars and food are not great.

In current times everyone has to go through a metal detector to get in and I did notice on the way out that access is severely restricted, again I assume for security reasons.

But on the positive side it didn’t actually take long to get in to the standing area and the sound quality is actually very good but on the headliners set in some ways that album quality did make it sound a little lifeless.

Arrived at 7.30 and missed the second support “Polaris” from Australia so first band I saw were “Beartooth”. They had a good following in the hall and are hard-core post punk with a little bit of humour added in. They did a reasonable rendition of Ramones Blitzkrieg Bop on the album “Aggressive” (their second LP) and did a good job of warming the crowd, despite the cavernous venue.

Band changes were also reasonably efficient and “Architects” hit the stage about 9.15. I saw these guys’ couple of years back at Brixton O2, so they have clearly expanded their following since then (although there were empty seats). They had just released “All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us” and were touring shortly after the death of guitarist Tom Searle, one of the founding members, who died from skin cancer.

The Brighton based band clearly have a loyal following, this being their biggest headline to date, and possibly an unusual occurrence for a band of this musical genre.

Current album “Holy Hell” released in 2018 is inevitably a little bit more melodic as compared to the full on nihilism of “All our Gods…” The punters around me seemed to feel they played the better tracks from the new album with some older stuff such as “Naysayer” and “Gravedigger” and “Nihilist”. As is probably inevitable they featured the latest album heavily (See set list below)

They had a big light show to accompany the set and some serious pyrotechnics. Despite being about of a third of the way back in the standing area the heat was immediate and intense so it must have been singed eyebrows at the front.

  1. Death Is Not Defeat
  2. Modern Misery
  3. Nihilist
  4. Broken Cross
  5. Holy Hell
  6. Royal Beggars
  7. Gravedigger
  8. Mortal After All
  9. Downfall
  10. Naysayer
  11. These Colours Don’t Run
  12. A Match Made in Heaven
  13. Hereafter
  14. A Wasted Hymn
  15. Memento Mori

(Middle Section Only)

  1. Encore:
  2. Gone With the Wind
  3. Doomsday

“Our Girl” headlining at The Lexington as part of”The Line of Best Fit’s Celebration of New Music”-18/01/2019.

Back at the Lexington in January 2019 for first outing of the year. Headlined as “The Line of Best Fit ‘s Annual Celebration of New Music” it was the culmination of five nights of showcasing lesser known bands. I booked this randomly on the back of “Our Girl” headlining who were the key draw on the night. Knew they were female led indie band so didn’t expect it to be too taxing on the brain cells or auditory senses. However as often happens these days there were actually less punters there at the end than for the minor bands. Indeed I had to queue to get in although arriving just after 7.30.

So on to the music. First band “Black Country New Road” are to be honest the ones to watch. Already championed in the Windmill Pub scene in South London they are attracting attention. Here is a section of the recent review in Clash music  blog available at  https://www.clashmusic.com/news/listen-black-country-new-road-athens-france  “Pierre Hall puts it best: “Every song twisted and turned in ways you didn’t expect, and lyrically, Isaac had this whole The Fall meets (William) Burroughs cut-ups thing going on, the lyrics seemed to tumble out of him – but they were clever and acerbic in equal measure. It was captivating to watch.”

The songs are self-contained stories and reflections on the current state of the world with universally recognised references to the fascination of social media and the world of Netflix.

They are young band, led by a charismatic front man, in the tradition of the anti-fashion music hero. Having never seen or heard anything of them before I did think that you had to be that young to get away with some of the intensity and pretentiousness on show but that rock and roll I guess.  As per the quote above you can think “The Fall” or “Velvet Underground “or avant-garde Jazz, due to the Saxophonist and lesser extent violin.

But I do like the element of experimentation and sheer gutsy attempt to produce something a bit different. Also despite some of the meanderings the rhythm section keeps it on track with a more traditional rock feel. I would seek them out again and musically they can only grow further as they give the impression of being interested in honing their craft.

Second band were “Squid” who are a POP band who I’m sure on hearing a few times infectious guitar led memorable songs. They also are a little unusual as the drummer is the main vocalist. When I did a little research there songs sounded more synthesiser led but in the live setting the guitars were stronger. So in order to give you a feel for the sound the guitars were sometimes heading towards “Dire Straits “ or even at points “Status Quo as they enjoyed themselves and rocked out. But may be that’s just my interpretation of their sound and how my ears were processing it.

Next band and last before headliners were “Gently Tender”. Vocalist kept the attention of the room with songs mainly exploring the more joyous end of relationships. With the vocalists fairly high register they reminded me a of a more optimistic version of “The Magic Numbers” mixed with a bit of “Veronica Falls “ from a few years ago. A really competent set but not sure they had a real USP (Unique selling point) and in a very crowded market I don’t know how far they might go (maybe they don’t care?). Funnily enough just doing a bit of last minute research for my blog and it appears they are made up of ex members of “Palma Violets”. Didn’t see that at the time but now I’ve just listened to the voice there it is. Wow. And by the way they are extremely ambitious they are on record as saying.

As mentioned previously the place was really crowded up to this point but possibly due to the lateness of the hour the crowd had thinned a bit by 10.30. “Our Girl “once they got started played for about 40 minutes and in this intimate venue sounded like a band on the indie side of the spectrum. Lead singer and guitarist Soph Nathan (who is also in “The Big Moon”) uses the guitar to alliterate her vocals in the live setting to greater effect I would say than on record. They are heavier musically and that’s there edge I would say as on first hearing by the un-initiated you could say why the fuss.

But as an observer the audience were enthusiastically grooving along and there were a few comments after on the stairwell by some about the best band they had ever seen. They are gaining a lot of critical acclaim and are darlings of BBC Radio 6.Comparisons to certain aspects of the “Pixies” sound have been made such as the juxtaposition of loud and quiet passages. Also “Breeders” and “Nirvana” (gently) in the influences here possibly I would say .They sound tight as a band and the rhythm section provide a solid background to the grungy guitar sound that dominates the musicality of the band.

I have of course performed my normal trick here of “bigging up” some of the supports and being slightly less enthusiastic about the headliner. That’s just life I guess and probably a very bad personality trait of mine.

In reality as always you have to approach these events with an open mind and I suppose it does as always depends where you are on your musical journey. Again the test is probably not to try to compare too much but just enjoy it for what it is. And just maybe you’re listening to your next musical hero.

If you haven’t been to the Lexington as a venue it’s one of the better smaller venues for atmosphere, ability to see and beer prices.

Stick To Your Guns – The Dome-14/12/2018

 

This is my last gig of 2018 (maybe) so Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year.

I had been looking forward to this evening. I saw “Stick to your Guns” (STYG) about two years ago supporting “Architects” at Brixton O2. They had strong stage presence and got a lively reception from the early evening audience on that occasion. I was hopeful of another energy packed evening.

It has to be said that we weren’t to be disappointed. The Dome is a good medium sized venue and with a new PA and stage this year really packs a punch. So it was well suited to the music on offer which was pretty hardcore. The audience were happy to match the bands energy levels and I can’t think of another gig I’ve been to, where the relatively young audience, gave all three bands 100% participation.

STYG were playing two nights and the second took place downstairs on the smaller stage. My eldest son went to the second night so I have included a couple of crowd pictures which I think were representative of the pandemonium on both nights. It certainly wasn’t a country for old men so I stayed to the side and was just was amazed no one was seriously hurt as people literally somersaulted into the assembled punters.

At the end of the gig as the crowd dispersed a very slippery floor emerged. Glad I didn’t have to sort that mess out.

Anyway back to the show. First band were “Employed to Serve” who set the tone swearing at the crowd to join in. Lead by a female vocalist, which is a bit unusual for this genre of music they played full throttle for 30 minutes.  A UK band, the vocalist growls and screams with the best of them as they smashed through the songs. No change of texture here and even though I had done a bit of research I didn’t recognise any songs specifically. But I’m not sure that’s the point. It’s just a wave of aggression washing over you and taking you in. I bought a T shirt on the strength of the performance, possibly because few people will know who they are and I like to support what is clearly a young and up and coming band.

Next band were “Counterparts “who had a bigger following at the Dome. The crowd really got into full enjoyment mode with numerous crowd surfers clambering on stage to throw themselves back into hopefully the supportive arms of their fellow gig goers. Hailing from Ontario they are a mature sounding band both the musically and age wise (formed in 2007). Categorised as melodic hardcore in the live setting again it was full on thrash from start to finish. From a historical point of view the lead singer is the only original band member left, apropos nothing, although these heavier bands do seem to go through quite a few changes.

Set List (courtesy of Setlist.fm

  1. Monument
  2. Bouquet
  3. No Servant of Mine
  4. Stranger
  5. Witness
  6. Swim Beneath My Skin
  7. Thieves
  8. Choke
  9. You’re Not You Anymore
  10. Burn
  11. The Disconnect

 

After another quick changeover STYG were up and running and again didn’t disappoint. There was a bit of banter between songs. At one point vocalist Jesse Barnett started a bit of a political diatribe on the state of the world and politics. When he said that he was aware of what was going on in the UK a spontaneous chorus of “Oh Jeremy Corbyn” started up. It was quite funny. STYG are a band that have a strong political stance, which is the subject of most of their material. At one point Jesse said that we do this for the love because we don’t make much money. I’m sure that’s true and at this point in their career they are unlikely to make a big breakthrough having formed way back in 2003. They sing about uncomfortable truths with a political or social message.

Not sure how long they played but they left without encore after a very energetic set with almost 50%  of songs from the last album “True View” which I recognised but the remainder were die-hard fan pleasers from back in the day.

Great night out and felt suitably cleansed after having my eardrums battered for over two hours in total.

Set list (courtesy of Setlist.fm)

  1. What Choice Did You Give Us?
  2. We Still Believe
  3. The Sun, The Moon, The Truth: “Penance of Self”
  4. Owed Nothing
  5. Such Pain
  6. 3 Feet From Peace
  7. Against Them All
  8. Empty Heads
  9. Through the Chain Link
  10. The Reach for Me: “Forgiveness of Self”
  11. Nothing You Can Do to Me
  12. Doomed By You
  13. Married to the Noise
  14. Amber
  15. Nobody